Sunday, April 22, 2012

You were right after all. The shame is ours.

Yildirim Turker[1]

The AK Party judiciary--apparently newly “liberated” from the yoke of politics--has made yet another decision that will be left to posterity as a shameful page in judicial history. Judging by the fact that the prime minister [Tayyip Erdogan] has praised this move as the guardian of an independent judiciary, it is clear that the government is accountable for this final play. As a matter of course, it is impossible to overlook that the prime minister is behind the long arm of the KCK police investigations.[2]

According to the prime minister, three quarters of those protesting are ‘so-called’ teachers; he has no time to waste with BDP[3] members of parliament, because “they are spineless;” the journalists that have been arrested aren’t real journalists, [and] the military that bombed and killed 34 civilians in Uludere is without fault. As it turns out, we already know who the guilty parties are; The identities of the culprits are no different than 20 or even 40 years ago.

The mentality of the police in this country has been as unchanging as their haircuts. Did you really think that the officers responsible for beating Ahmet Turk would be identified and charged? If you did, then you must be one of those die hard “yetmez ama evet” supporters.[4] I do not know how to respond to those who still attach any hope to [the identification and prosecution of those responsible for the assault on Ahmet Turk]. The prime minister said of Ahmet Turk: “He insolently fought with the police, and then [his supporters] say, ‘they assaulted a member of parliament.’ You are the ones who are fighting with the police, and inciting mobs to attack them. Security forces withstand this up to a point, and then they have to react to protect themselves.” How can one harbor any hope of justice after such a statement? The same smug approval that lies beneath the punches thrown at Ahmet Turk are behind the KCK indictments.

In order both to justify the government violence that showed itself as a result of the ban on Newroz celebrations this year, as well as to intimidate us so-called misguided journalists, the prime minister has stood by the police, saying, “We know what we’re doing. Don’t talk out of turn about things you know nothing about.” The prime minister accused those who opposed his pro-force approach of not knowing the real facts about the Kurdish political movement. After the ravenous arrests following the KCK investigations, the ruling party created an exclusive club of sorts with the partisan media, leaving everyone who disagreed with them out of the picture. Claiming that bailing out Ersanli and Zarakolu was foolishness, [those in charge] told us, “Just wait, and see what will happen.” Respectable men of letters rejoiced when the September 12 hearings started as if to say, “I told you so.” This is why they had voted this government into power in the first place. They are still trying to spite us with their adolescent bullying.

How has the attempt to prosecute two of the generals involved in the September 12 military coup changed our lives for the better? How is the current judiciary’s a priori determination of guilt any different from the mechanism of power that was set into place after the coup? So much of our lives have been spent exercising caution [against potential conspiracies]: Decoding secret messages, manipulating the logo on a pack of cigarettes to discover that it looks like the bust of Mao, seeing a hammer and sickle cleverly disguised on municipal services logos; keeping our eyes open at every turn in order not to be deceived by the alien-communist-separatist-sectarian agents in society. The first indictment that came at the end of the KCK trials was unanimously passed by the Criminal Court. The honorable justice was clearly not concerned with using the dispassionate language of the law. He apparently had decided for all of us, and let us know his verdict: “... Anyone who has read the document called the KCK Charter would consider it to be state constitution.”

But this is not all. Demonstrating a level of creativity that even surprised those who were wondering how Ragip Zarakolu’s arrest would be explained, the justices said:
“In spite of the fact that the teaching in question appears only to have been an innocent and humanist activity, it fulfilled a terrorist organizations logistical and manpower needs. For example, any individual may buy a cell phone from a store or purchase nails to repair his house. These activities may in turn be regarded as the fulfillment of normal and human needs. But as the PKK/KCK terrorist organization often does, one could use a cell phone to detonate a bomb remotely that has been reinforced with nails to cause maximum damage. And if such an individual is caught while buying such a cell phone or nails in order to be used in the preparation of such an explosive, there is obviously no need to prove that the individual in question is guilty of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization. It is clear that the suspect [Zarakolu] is guilty of an identical contribution to a terrorist organization...”

Now do you understand the charges against Zarakolu? Supposedly Zarakolu’s son Cihan Deniz Zarakolu taught a class on the origins of the universe at Siyaset Akademisi. Even the parts of the lesson about dinosaurs were presented as evidence against the younger Zarakolu in court. In other words, if there are no nails, then dinosaurs will have to do.

But this is nothing. Previously unremarkable activities such as owning and keeping red and yellow bandanas in one’s house, attending quantum physics class, and commiserating with a friend over the phone over his bad luck are listed as if they were the most abominable crimes. It turns out we were ignorant of many facts about Zarakolu, Ersanli and many others under arrest. We speak out of turn, and anger our prime minister who reckons that Ahmet [Sik]’s book is a bomb. Shame on us: We brazenly said they would never prosecute those involved in the 12 September coup. Well, they sure showed us!

[1] This is the English translation of the article originally entitled “Hakliymissiniz. Utanc Bizim,” and published on Radikal Daily on April 8, 2012. GIT- North America would like to thank Han Salzmann for the translation of this article from Turkish to English. To read the original in Turkish visit
[2] Koma Civâken Kurdistan (Union of Communities in Kurdistan). “Operation KCK” is a investigation by the Turkish government into alleged links between Kurdish political activists and armed separatist militants.
[3] Baris ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) is a political party in Turkey with a social democratic ideology and a strong interest in Kurdish minority rights in Turkey.
[4] The slogan, literally meaning, “It is not enough, but yes” refers to a portion of the electorate who voted ‘yes’ in the 2010 referendum in Turkey. The referendum proposed amendments to the constitution passed subsequent to the military coup on 12 September 1980. A portion of those who voted ‘yes’ had reservations about the scope of the measures proposed by the referendum, but viewed it as ‘the lesser of two evils.’